Friday, July 19, 2013
FFB: Blues for the Prince - Bart Spicer
Carney Wilde is hired by Larry Owens, ex-fiance of the Prince's daughter. He wants closure and he wants the truth. Owens hopes learning the truth might help repair his relationship with Martha Prince. Wilde takes the case because he's a jazz enthusiast himself and is a great admirer of the Prince's music. He thinks the whole scheme of Magee's is nothing more than lies and the work of a desperate blackmailer. He wants to prove the Prince was a true musician and that his music is his own. But soon he learns his jazz idol is not the folk hero that newspapers and the fans have made him out to be.
From Martha he learns that her father was "a cheap loud man with bad taste...primitive in his music just as he was in life." From Lt. Grodnik he uncovers the Prince's a "foot long" police record of drunk and disorderly charges. The Prince was also addicted to drugs and at this late stage in his career apparently needed the junk to calm him down so he could perform civilly in front of an audience. Carney is none too happy to have taken up the case. The digging up of dirt gets messier and uglier the more questions he asks.
Spicer knows his jazz music and the story is as much an exploration of the jazz scene as it is another early version of the corrupt family crime dramas like those of Ross Macdonald. Notable too is Spicer's handling of race issues that are rather advanced for a book published in 1950. Carney Wilde manages to clear the Prince's name, repair a bit of the musician's scarred reputation, and heal a very wounded family when he finally discovers how and why the blues man died. Though purists may object to one of the last twists in the finale the novel still has Spicer's trademark realism, honesty in emotion, and an unexpected poignancy in the story's resolution.
Previously on PSB is this review of The Dark Light, Bart Spicer's debut mystery novel and the first of seven books featuring Carney Wilde.